Please, Detroit Lions, don’t pick an offensive lineman No. 2 overall in the NFL draft

Detroit Free Press

I don’t think this will happen, but I’m scared it will happen, so I’m going to politely ask Brad Holmes to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Please, please, please don’t select an offensive lineman No. 2 overall in the 2022 NFL draft.

Did I forget to say please?

The Detroit Lions general manager held his season-ending news conference on Tuesday and mostly did a good job of saying a lot of nothing, which is to be expected. Asking a GM to tell you anything meaningful about his player-acquisition plans is like asking a professional poker player to tell you about the hand he’s holding.

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But Holmes has clearly signaled he wants to make the offensive and defensive lines a strength, since he spent his first three picks as a GM last year on those positions. There’s a long way to go before the draft kicks off April 28. We have the Senior Bowl, the combine, free agency and draft visits. There’s also a chance Holmes trades away the No. 2 pick.

Anything can happen.

The only thing I sincerely hope doesn’t happen is that Holmes becomes intoxicate with the success right tackle Penei Sewell had as the No. 7 pick and try to replicate that success by spending the No. 2 pick on Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal. Or any other offensive lineman.

The No. 2 pick should be reserved for a player who makes an impact almost immediately or at least makes a big difference on the team.

For now, it looks like cornerback Jeff Okudah will struggle to be that player after he’s played only 10 games since being the No. 3 in 2020. But the philosophy behind picking a potential lockdown corner was at least solid.

Using the No. 2 pick on the two top defensive ends in the draft, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, also would be solid. Good edge rushers are worth their weight in gold and can wreck any offensive game plan.

“I hope it’s a difference maker if it’s two,” Holmes said. “But we’re still going through that process now.”

Holmes was asked again if he “believes” there’s a difference maker at No. 2.

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“We’ll see when the smoke clears,” he said. “I hope so.”

There’s that word again: hope. As in I hope Holmes doesn’t screw this up because the Lions can’t miss on a pick this high again.

As for the smoke, let me cut through that — and some other stuff — right now for Holmes. There’s no need for the Lions to draft an offensive linemen with the No. 2 overall pick — and probably not even late in the first round with the Los Angeles Rams’ undecided pick.

Lay football fans love talking about “winning in the trenches.” OK, the Philadelphia Eagles had the No. 1 run game in the NFL this season. They had one Pro Bowler on the O-line: center Jason Kelce, a sixth-rounder. They also had just one first-rounder, right tackle Lane Johnson.

Hey, Carlos, the Lions had a good offensive line this year and it featured three first-rounders!

True. And when they beat the Arizona Cardinals for their biggest win of the season, they did so by starting undrafted rookie left guard Tommy Kraemer, undrafted journeyman center Evan Brown and fifth-round right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

Offensive linemen may be the worst athletes on the field, but their strength is they work as a group and can make up for one person’s deficiencies.

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They should really be viewed as basic necessities, like a ride to work. But a hand-me-down, beat-up truck with 100,000 miles gets your there just as well as an exotic hypercar. With three first-round picks on their O-line, the Lions have the equivalent of a Ferrari Daytona Spyder, a Lamborghini Veneno and Batman’s Tumbler in their garage.

To be fair, Holmes didn’t suggest he was on the verge of taking an O-lineman. But he didn’t rule it out and you could almost see the twinkle in his eye when he mentioned the O-line being a strength when he discussed positions of need to fill this offseason.

“I don’t think it’s just one position, first of all,” he said. “I would agree, yes, offensive line. You could say defensive line. You could argue that those are strengths of our team, but we do want to improve in all the other areas.

“I think our running backs did a really, really nice job. But we can always get better at the perimeter positions on both sides of the ball. But I think it’s not one position that you can kind of focus on.”

Ah, perimeter positions. We can only dream that Holmes talking about wide receivers. We can only hope the success of fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown will encourage him to mine that position further.

Comparing the success of other teams’ draft picks to the Lions. But it’s hard not think how different this 3-13-1 season might have looked if Holmes had chosen Micah Parsons, DeVonta Smith or even Patrick Surtain II seventh overall and elite offensive tackle Creed Humphries in the second round.

St. Brown’s success has to be balanced against the struggles of second-round defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike, but overall Holmes’ first draft was decent and at the very least resulted in playing time from every pick.

Now it’s time to move forward. By leaps and bounds. By some estimates, the Lions might have 10 picks going into the draft. That means Holmes can afford to miss on a few players. But he also needs to hit some runs by finding difference-makers.

Did I forget to say please?

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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